Medicare

Another Day, Another Temporary Extension of Doctors' Medicare Reimbursements

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Once again, Congress kicks the can down the road.

The top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Finance Committee shepherded through a one-month "doc fix" Thursday paid for by cuts to payments for certain therapy services.

The goal is to have the House pick up the bill after the Thanksgiving recess, on Nov. 29 or 30. Doctors would see a 23 percent cut in their Medicare payments under the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula on Dec. 1 if the House doesn't act before then.

…The patch retains a 2.2 percent update in physician payments through the end of the year. Baucus and Grassley also agreed they would work together to pursue a year-long fix to the formula that could be enacted before the month-long patch expires.

There are no good options here. Making the current higher payment rates permanent will cost a couple hundred billion dollars and there's no consensus whatsoever on where that money will come from. Letting the cuts go into effect and you jeopardize seniors' access to care. Fixing the system is going to be difficult and unpleasant for a lot of people, but then, that's what happens when you build health systems around dysfunctional government programs.

More on the doc fix and Medicare's sustainable growth rate payment formula here and here